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Born to Run … or Wrestle?

20 May 2011 No Comment

Probably both.

Christopher McDougall’s recent bestseller Born to Run re-energized the campaign for barefoot running and a primal, natural and rational return to how we understand sports and the influence of money on sports culture. ┬áThe book follows the story of the Tarahumara, tribal Indians who live in relative isolation in Sierra Madre Mountains deep in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. MacDougall describes the Tarahumara in detail, their established tradition of long-distance running and ability to run great distance barefoot or with minimal padding.

Tarahumara girls battle it out on sawdust as young competitors wait their turn.

What McDougall brushes over, and what it relevant to this site, is the commitment of the Tarahumara to their own brand of belt wrestling, named aprropriately Lucha Tarahumara, or Najarapuame. The description below is from an essay written by Gavin Dickson:

Najarapuame or Lucha Tarahumara as it is called in Spanish is likewise a catch hold style but this time a belt is used for the main hold & opponents try to swing each other off balance for the toppling victory. Najarapuame retains many of it pre-Columbian rituals even though it is mostly performed during Easter celebrations, things such as the chants sung during the competitions, the celebratory drinking of maize beer after the event as well as marriage arrangements clearly demonstrate its pagan origins & the Tarahumara consider the sport as essential to their cultural identity. Public schools throughout Chihuahua & neighbouring Sinaloa hold regular Najarapuame tournaments on sawdust rings in which both boys & girls participate, ensuring the vital survival of this ancient custom.

MacDougall, who in writing his book partially inspired this project, doesn’t recognize the wrestling tradition and it’s importance to the Tarahumara. One may even say that he marginalizes the impact wrestling has on maintaining the emotional health of the tribe. Either way, MacDougall is a fantastic writer and fans of this site should purchase a copy of his book.

Trust me, you’ll run barefoot to your next wrestling match.

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